New Sherwood

More than the angels?

“And in God’s eyes we are the greatest, the most beautiful, the best things about Creation…’But father, the Angels?’ No, the Angels are beneath us! We are more than the Angels! We heard it in the Book of the Psalms! God really loves us! We have to thank him for this!” – Pope Francis, today’s General Audience

“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour: And hast set him over the works of thy hands.”Psalm 8:5-7

“So, therefore, God’s mercy is great in the comparison of man to God; but this follows from man in the comparison to the angels, who man comes into proximity to. Thou hast made him a little less. The image of God is found in the angels by the simple intuition of truth, without any inquiry; but in humans discursively: and therefore in man only in a certain small degree.– St. Thomas Aquinas, commentary on Psalm 8

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May 21, 2014 - Posted by | Pope Francis

40 Comments »

  1. While this kind of thing can be chalked up to memory issues or general sloppiness, it happens frequently enough to be a cause of embarrassment. More concerning, though, is that these mistakes always err in the direction of a humanistic or man-centered theology.

    On a related note, Psalm 8 is prayed by the clergy in the “reformed” Liturgy of the Hours. One would hope that the Holy Father has prayed the Hours with some regularity over the years and is very much acquainted with the psalms. However, Psalm 8:5-6 is translated this way: “What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god …” A little less than a god! Where did the angels go?

    Like

    Comment by Blogmaster | May 21, 2014 | Reply

  2. 1 Corinthians 6:3….but that’s not the Psalms. Yes, it fails to instill confidence.

    Like

    Comment by Dale Price | May 21, 2014 | Reply

  3. Thanks for that reference, Dale.

    I looked up St. Thomas again and found this commentary:

    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/english/SS1Cor.htm#61

    “Then when he says, Do you not know that we, namely, the faithful of Christ, will judge angels? This can be understood of bad angels, who will be condemned by the saints, by whose virtue they were overcome. Hence the Lord says in Lk (10:19): ‘I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy.’ And in Ps 91 (v. 3): ‘The young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.’ It can also be understood of good angels, most of whom in some way will be found inferior to Paul and others like him. Hence, it is significant that he does not say ‘they’ but ‘we’ shall judge. For although it might be said, as a consequence, that if saints will judge good and evil men, there will be a judgment of good angels, whose accidental reward is increased by the reward of saints enlightened by angels and a judgment of evil angels, whose punishment is increased by the punishment of men led astray by them.”

    Obviously, Psalm 8:5-6 pertains to an entirely different context than the remarks of St. Paul in 1 Cor 6:3. The former speaks to the creation of man as man, which the pope seemed to be addressing. The latter refers to the triumph of the saints – redeemed by Christ, and having fought the good fight – over the evil angels at the judgment. One important thing to note is that this passage pertains to some men and not to others, whereas the pope was speaking in universal terms, like the psalm. The exalted, glorified state of those who are saved is greater in some ways than man’s created state before the fall.

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    Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  4. This appears to be one of those cases where the statement is true but the context is critical to seeing that truth. We are clearly made inferior in power and intellect to the angels, but the Holy Father doesn’t seem to be referencing the magnitude of our creation. Instead, he is talking about God’s love for us, and unequivocally God draws us closer to Him than the angels. Why do you think the angel of light, Lucifer, rebelled? His pride would not allow a creature to be greater than him. We then see in the words of Christ this Truth, “the first will be last and the last will be first.” Lucifer was thrown from his place of being first (or nearly so) to being last. So who is the last who will be first? Our Lady, the Mother of God, in her incredible humility was last in all of creation, and was therefore made first in heaven, crowned Queen. What angel is loved by Jesus more than His Mother?

    So, the Holy Father’s statement is not man centered, but instead a call to great humility. Our reward is the infinite love of God. We are made good by God, and in fact very good, but it is not our creation that makes us worthy of greatness. Instead it is our humility and our recognition that we are vastly inferior to the angels and incapable of even seeing God without the grace to God to strengthen us. In this humility, God draws us closer to Him than even the angels. They can never share as fully as we can in the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, as they do not have body’s to unite with the body and blood of Christ. We are offered the ultimate give, the Eucharist, that will make us first in all of creation, if we are humble enough to receive Our Lord fully into us.

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    Comment by Gary | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  5. Gary, that was an admirable defense of the pope’s remarks. I am reminded of a great eastern hymn to Our Lady:

    “More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.

    Without corruption you gave birth to God the Word.

    True Theotokos, we magnify you.”

    If you look at the context of the pope’s statement we will see three things in play: 1) creation; 2) the psalm; 3) God’s love. The first two clearly pertain to man as created in his original state, and the psalm itself refutes the pope’s interpretation. The third consideration – God’s love for men and angels – gives the pope’s remarks some plausibility, but we see from St. Thomas that it must be interpreted as applying only to the saints in glory, which mitigates against the universality of the pope’s remarks.

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    Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014 | Reply

    • I’ve read and reread the passage, and I don’t see where it makes reference to the line in psalm 8 you reference. Are you sure that is what the Holy Father intends? It seems he is referencing the psalms as evidence for God’s love for us. Look at these three sentences as one thought: “We heard it in the Book of the Psalms! God really loves us! We have to thank him for this!” This would be a consistent statement with the psalms. Additionally, I would think the text would reference the line in Psalm 8 if that was the intention, since the verses in Genesis are specifically referenced.

      If Pope Francis is looking at the psalms in totality as a statement of God love, then (1) creation refers to God’s love to create us very good, (2) the psalms reinforce throughout them God’s love for us, and (3) God’s love is fulfilled in Jesus to elevate us above our original created nature. St. Thomas is referencing the nature of man, and our nature is incredibly far below the angels. God is not limited by our nature, and elevates us in His love far above our nature. This elevation is only realized with the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of the Eucharist.

      So I believe that the Holy Father’s words offer truth and insight, while your position seems to be that they are in error and untrustworthy. The important question is not which of us is right, but what do we choose to do with the Holy Father’s teaching. I believe Pope Francis is humble and striving to lead us to God. As such, I look for the truth in his statements that I can learn. This seems to be a course that is good for the growth of my faith. With your interpretation, I am presented with the Pope as an untrustworthy teacher that I should not listen to. This seems to be a course that is dangerous to my salvation.

      With my interpretation, I can dwell on the incredible and magnificent gift that God offers, a gift I am in no way worthy to receive. This gift of God’s love offers to elevate me above the angels who are clearly superior to me. I get chills just imagining this, and will choose to continue to seek the good and truth in the Holy Father’s teachings.

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      Comment by Gary | May 22, 2014 | Reply

      • “I’ve read and reread the passage, and I don’t see where it makes reference to the line in psalm 8 you reference. Are you sure that is what the Holy Father intends?”

        Well, among the biblically literate, it’s certainly one of the best known and most quoted psalms. I know of no other psalm that compares men with angels this way. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

        “It seems he is referencing the psalms as evidence for God’s love for us.”

        God’s love can be found in the psalms, of course. But for a Catholic it makes much more sense to reference the gospels as evidence for God’s love. Besides, what is the “it” in “We heard it in the Book of the Psalms”? It follows naturally from the preceding point – “We are more than the Angels!” – which needed evidence of some kind because he was responding to an objection. His reference to the psalms was intended to provide the evidence.

        “St. Thomas is referencing the nature of man, and our nature is incredibly far below the angels.”

        Yes, indeed. But Pope Francis was also referencing the nature of man, as his preceding words make clear: “The first chapter of Genesis, at the very beginning of the Bible, shows us that God delights of His creation, by repeatedly emphasizing the beauty and goodness of all things …and when God finished creating man, He didn’t say that ‘it was good’, He said that it is ‘very good!’, He draws us close to Him.”

        “God is not limited by our nature, and elevates us in His love far above our nature.”

        He elevates men who respond to His love far above their nature. This is crucial.

        “This elevation is only realized with the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of the Eucharist.”

        True, Gary, but now we are moving far beyond the psalms – and we are forgetting that Pope Francis is referring to man’s nature as man, which we know because he had the psalms in mind. We are also forgetting that this exaltation of man is not universal, contrary to the pope’s remarks, but is limited to the saints who will persevere unto the end and finish the race.

        “So I believe that the Holy Father’s words offer truth and insight, while your position seems to be that they are in error and untrustworthy. The important question is not which of us is right, but what do we choose to do with the Holy Father’s teaching.”

        I think both questions are legitimate, and the answer to the second depends upon the answer to the first. I submit that this is yet another reason to view the Holy Father’s non-infallible teachings with extreme caution and, indeed, suspicion. He has proven himself an untrustworthy teacher many times over. Catholics beware!

        “I believe Pope Francis is humble and striving to lead us to God. As such, I look for the truth in his statements that I can learn. This seems to be a course that is good for the growth of my faith. With your interpretation, I am presented with the Pope as an untrustworthy teacher that I should not listen to. This seems to be a course that is dangerous to my salvation.”

        Pope Francis may indeed be humble and striving to lead us to God. I try very hard not to pass judgment on his personal humility or lack thereof, though sometimes he makes it difficult. So let’s just stick to the facts. What did he say? And, in the context of today’s remarks and his entire pontificate thus far, what could he possibly have meant? I believe he meant exactly what he said: that man, in his nature, was created by God greater than the angels. That’s the only credible prima facie interpretation. And it fits perfectly with his relentless theological anthropocentrism. A well-formed and literate Catholic like yourself can dance around that, but the masses are going to take him at face value. And the pope is wrong on this level. Most people will find themselves misled. Who knows what they will take away from it? Angels are close to God and already perfect; they don’t need to repent or strive for holiness, so why should we, who are greater than angels? Angels are subject to man just like the rest of creation is subject to man. The scriptures mean whatever the current pope says it means today. Etc.

        The pope is an untrustworthy teacher. That’s just the plain truth, and recognizing this fact is essential to your salvation. He has already misled millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Just ask your average pew-sitter what he thinks about Pope Francis and why. And when you get your heretical answers, please don’t blame the media. He’s leading millions of Catholics over a spiritual cliff, and I beg you and all readers not to follow him there.

        Having said that, someone with your intelligence and discernment is capable of getting some benefit from Pope Francis. The Holy Father is at his best when he speaks of practical day-to-day Christian living. I myself have profited from his words in this realm and am truly thankful for them. But when he gets any deeper, just forget it.

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        Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014

      • You write: “I submit that this is yet another reason to view the Holy Father’s non-infallible teachings with extreme caution and, indeed, suspicion. He has proven himself an untrustworthy teacher many times over. Catholics beware!”

        It pains me to read that. There have been times when I have read Pope Francis’ statements and my reaction was anger and distrust, but in every case, as I got deeper into them, I found truth at the core. In some places, this truth challenged me to see the world through a different lens. You have the opportunity to write about truth and lead people to the Church, but have chosen to set yourself as an obstacle. You sound like a Pharisee knowledgeable in the law quoting it to Christ. I implore you to seek the humility of Ethiopian who knew he could not understand what he read without someone to interpret it. Look at the fruit that you will bear… if you succeed in driving a wedge between Catholics and the Holy Father, and seed doubt in their minds, you will drive people to isolate themselves from the Church and ultimately from Christ. How can that effort be good? Are you becoming the fig tree that didn’t bear fruit? You have great knowledge of scripture. Use that to teach truth, not to undermine and divide us.

        Our faith is full of paradoxes that can easily be resolved if we are open to resolving them. In this case, it is a paradox that the angels are vastly superior to us, and yet we are greater. The key takeaway for me is simple. As I meet people today, some who will insult, offend annoy and frustrate me, I need to remember that each of those people is a creature loved by God so much that they are one of the greatest creatures in all of creation, even if they are not living up to their potential.

        Should we question and debate the Holy Father’s teachings, of course, but with the goal of seeking truth in them to unity us. The papacy is not meant to exist to make you comfortable and to cater to your desires. If Pope Francis is challenging you, then he is living up to his office. As for me and my house, I choose to follow the Truth and will pray for you to choose to do the same.

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        Comment by Gary | May 22, 2014

  6. Christ died to save man.
    Christ did not die to save angels.
    Thus, man is greater than angels.

    What shocks me is that traditionalist Catholics don’t know this.
    In just the last four months, Pewsitter.org has put question marks behind at least a half-dozen perfectly orthodox statements from Pope Francis.

    Why are traditionalist Catholics so ill-informed about the Faith?
    The Pope isn’t mis-speaking, nor is he mis-representing the Faith. Rather, people who CLAIM they know the Faith well are demonstrating they don’t know it at all, then they blame the Pope for not sharing in their foolish understanding.

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    Comment by Steve Kellmeyer | May 22, 2014 | Reply

    • Mr. Kellmeyer, why don’t you tell us what the psalmist, to whom the pope unwisely appeals for support, and St. Thomas really mean?

      Also, your syllogism is defective because angels and men are entirely different creatures with different relationships to their Creator.

      Like

      Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014 | Reply

      • The problem with your interpretation of Aquinas has been amply demonstrated in other comments – you proof-text Aquinas exactly the same way Protestants proof-text Scripture.

        Indeed, traditionalists habitually proof-text ALL Church documents exactly as Protestants proof-text the Church document which is Scripture. It’s very embarrassing to read traditionalists.

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        Comment by Steve Kellmeyer | May 22, 2014

      • Mr. Kellmeyer, your non-answer is duly noted.

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        Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014

    • Christ didn’t die to save the fallen angels because doing so would be inconsistent with the nature of angels. Their decisions for or against God, once made, are irreversible. The fact that Christ did not die to save them proves nothing about their greatness, or about God’s love for them, one way or the other. See: http://catholicexchange.com/why-arent-demons-saved

      “Like humans, spirits—angelic or demonic—are understood to have a free will, according to St. Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of the topic in the Summa Theologica. Yet, even though it is free, the will of a demon or an angel nonetheless differs from ours in at least one major respect. For humans, our will is ‘moveable’—in other words we have the ability to change our minds and move from one thing to its opposite, say from faith to unbelief.

      But it is not so with the spirits, Aquinas writes. Once they have made their choice, it can’t be undone:

      ‘So it is customary to say that man’s free-will is flexible to the opposite both before and after choice; but the angel’s free-will is flexible [to] either opposite before the choice, but not after. Therefore the good angels who adhered to justice, were confirmed therein; whereas the wicked ones, sinning, are obstinate in sin.’

      This difference is rooted in our differing natures. We humans, according to Aquinas, reach the perfection by ‘change and movement.’ In other words, we come to reach ‘perfection in the knowledge of the truth’ by advancing in steps, from one discovery to another, Aquinas writes. This should sound familiar to all of us: all of us have to journey by faith to God, whether it’s the lifelong doubter who finally finds faith on his deathbed, or the cradle Catholic who has been nurtured in his or her faith since infancy and never stops growing. Scripture confirms that in this life we will never stop learning and growing in our faith: on this earth, our vision of God will always be through a ‘glass darkly’ as St. Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians.

      Heavenly creatures, on the other hand, by their very nature already have their ‘last perfection,’ according to Aquinas. In other words, there’s no more room for them to grow and develop beyond where they are. While we have a ‘longer way’ to beatitude, the angels could grasp it almost immediately from the moment they are created, Aquinas says. Again, this makes sense: after all, they started out in heaven.

      Now we can begin to understand on a deeper level why demons are damned without any offer of redemption: we can infer from what Aquinas says that they were more spiritually advanced than we were—therefore, it stands to reason that their fall from grace was not only that much worse but also irreversible.”

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      Comment by Blogmaster | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  7. Weeeellll, for all that I typically disagree firmly with Mr. Kellmeyer, I think he’s right on this one.
    I have generally understood that, while angels ARE superior to humans in many respects, humans ARE still, greater in God’s Creation.
    Or, perhaps I should say, we will be in heaven.

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    Comment by John | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  8. More newchurch speak… a church built on man instead of God

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    Comment by salvelinus123 | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  9. The Blessed Mother is Queen of the Angels. Christ united his divine nature to human nature and redeemed humanity thus raising it above the angels.

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    Comment by Bob | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  10. Recall how the New Testament handles that Psalm, too:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hebrews+2&version=RSVCE

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    Comment by Dale Price | May 22, 2014 | Reply

  11. I feel like the Eastern hymn in whihc Mary is exalted above all the angels holds the answer.

    Angels are higher than men in general. If that were not the case, it wouldn’t be much of a hymn.

    However, those few who heroically humble themsleves before the Lord, especially Mary, can be lifted to the pinacles of creation through Grace.

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    Comment by Patrick Runge | May 23, 2014 | Reply

  12. We already know the pope is no Thomist. Benedict wasn’t either, but I think he had a much greater sympathy for the classical Thomistic worldview, and in that worldview humans are beneath angels in the order of existential perfection. Cf. esp. http://philosopherdhaines.blogspot.com/2012/03/thomistic-hierarchy-of-being-argument.html

    Cf. also http://excellence-in-literature.com/world-lit/e5-resources/approaching-the-divine-comedy-by-stacy-esch

    The confusion arises from some of us taking him as referring to the created order, while others are superimposing the larger context of redemption. From the beginning mankind was ontologically lower than angels, but, by grace, human nature has become covenantally superior to them. This is a nuance the pope steamrolls over, but, hey, “his heart’s in the right place.”

    He so often seem too busy, too preoccupied, to care exactly what words he utters, as if he’s always halfway onto his next engagement. Considering his cultural background, I’m amazed at how he assumes great theological depth and unfailing good will from his audience. As is so often the case, he can, with care, be taken in an orthodox sense, but the burden invariably falls upon clever laymen–in this case, Mr. Kellmeyer or Bob–to provide the missing syllogism that we are assured Francis had in mind.

    This is yet another example of why “getting” this pope is more trouble than it’s worth, especially considering how many other untapped riches lie before us as Catholics. Best part of his sermon, in other words, is that he got me to read more Aquinas. ;)

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    Comment by Codgitator (Cadgertator) | May 25, 2014 | Reply

    • The burden falls on every Catholic to BOTH know the Faith AND have Christian charity.
      Too many traditionalists claim to know the Faith, but they don’t have the charity necessary to UNDERSTAND it.
      Thus, they become nothing but a clanging cymbal.

      Trust the Pope. He knows more than you or I, but what’s more important, he LOVES better than you or I.
      Thus, he understands more than you or I.
      The conclave was inspired by God Himself when they chose Francis.
      They chose well.

      Like

      Comment by Steve Kellmeyer | May 25, 2014 | Reply

      • Said by he who is demonstrably the most charitable commenter in this thread. OK.

        But it’s absurd to say that the pope “knows more than you or I” and “LOVES better than you or I”, therefore he’s always right. Neither of these features are intrinsic to the office of the papacy, and even if they applied to this one, they do not guarantee fidelity to doctrinal truth. Conclaves have produced some horribly bad popes in the past, some profoundly cruel, others at least material heretics. Yet they were still popes.

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        Comment by Blogmaster | May 25, 2014

    • “From the beginning mankind was ontologically lower than angels, but, by grace, human nature has become covenantally superior to them.”

      I think I have to disagree with you here, Codgitator. Nature is one thing, grace is another – and not every human being is living in grace. At any rate, not the kind of grace that elevates men over angels. I’d like to know where you find support for this idea in Catholic teaching.

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      Comment by Blogmaster | May 25, 2014 | Reply

      • I wonder… I think Codgitator’s statement can also be taken in various ways. There must be a true sense, methinks, because it reminds me very much of an ancient collect for the feast of Christmas, which was reused during the offertory of the Tridentine Missal:

        “O God, Who in creating man didst exalt his nature very wonderfully and yet more wonderfully didst establish it anew: by the mystery signified in the mingling of this water and wine, grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath vouchsafed to share our manhood, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God; world without end. Amen.”

        Thisprayer doesn’t mention the angels, but it does mention the exaltation of human NATURE, which was also the subject of Codgitator’s point.

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        Comment by The Maestro | May 25, 2014

      • Far be it from me to be taken as defending one of the pope’s trademark head-scratchers. ;) Since this is already a pretty tangled topic, let me try to state in (roughly) bullet-point fashion what I’m trying to say, otherwise my words will run together (even more than usual!).

        1. I agree with you–and with the Church–that Angels are higher in the order of created being. That was the point of providing the links I did.

        2. I want to reiterate that I think the confusion, in this case as in others, arises from the way this pope slides all over the place, theologically and rhetorically. Yes, he is speaking, for the most part, of the order of creation, but he is also speaking to believers, which automatically includes the order of grace (cf. ST I, q. 112, a. 2, ad 4). This is why, I think, he suddenly mentions God’s “love” for “us”. So, as I said earlier, instead of making a single, traditionally coherent he’s just blending everything together in his typical fashion, which is his papacy is like Linus from “Peanuts”.

        3a. Now, as for my claim that human nature itself attains a higher “rank” in the ordo salutis, I offer a few considerations–but with a preliminary reminder. A thing’s nature is defined by its end, and an effect’s dignity is based on the dignity of its cause. Therefore, whichever “thing” is used for the highest end, and is acted upon most radically by the highest cause, is the most dignified. With that in mind…

        3b. The exalted role of human nature per se is, traditionally understood, what triggered Lucifer’s pride. As Taylor Marshall writes, “Maria de Agreda relates that when Lucifer learned that the Logos would become man through a human mother; Lucifer, the highest of all creatures, demanded the honor of becoming the Theotokos. He wanted the hypostatic union to occur through him. This is another reason why there is perfect enmity between Satan and Mary (see Gen 3:15). It is also why Mary now has the highest place in Heaven.” As St. Francis de Sales notes in his Treatise on the Love of God (II, 4), “It was human [as opposed to angelic] nature of which he had determined to take a blessed portion to unite it to his divinity.” The angelic nature per se was never, and never shall be, enrolled to such a high order of efficacy, and thus not to such a high degree of glory.

        3c. The Councils of Ephesus and Constantinople II (DS §§120, 221) have decreed that latria is to be given in common to the humanity and divinity of Christ. No angelic nature is ever deserving of latria, ergo at least one instance of human nature enjoys infinitely higher glory than all angelic natures. To put it in crude terms: In terms of the ordo creationis, angels win, but in terms of the ordo salutis, humans win. ;)

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        Comment by Codgitator (Cadgertator) | May 27, 2014

      • Thanks, Codgitator. I can’t argue with any of that.

        An important question is whether, in the ordo salutis, it is mankind who wins universally – inclusive of those without sanctifying grace – or only those who attain beatitude. Thus far, I have yet to see any support for the claim that man as man is universally elevated above the angels apart from union with Christ. But I am willing to be corrected.

        While the Holy Father was speaking to Christians, in the context of his remarks his claim was clearly meant to be applied universally.

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        Comment by Blogmaster | May 27, 2014

      • Upon re-reading the opening quotation, I must agree: it’s just an erroneous claim on his part. If he confines his point to creation, it’s simply erroneous; but if he means to discuss salvation (à la the quotation from St. Irenaeus that “the glory of God is man fully alive”), then he is in real danger of collapsing grace into nature. Christ redeemed human nature, restoring it to its original dignity in creation (i.e. below the angels). Moreover, having reestablished humanity as a platform for theosis, He offers grace to allow individuals to transcend their nature in order to enjoy supernatural life in the vision of God. Yet I think there is a way in which human nature performs a more magnificent role in the order of Providence than the angelic nature. Does the Bible speak of angels being transformed into the likeness of Christ? What does it mean that Christ was like us (but not like angels) in every way but sin? The natural inferiority of human nature, relative to angels, redounds to God’s glory all the more precisely because human nature was chosen to perform a role that a naturally higher order of being shall never experience.

        I’m just sounding things out, not really trying to defend a tight thesis. I think the Eastern Fathers talk more about this kind of thing (esp. Dionysius and Maximus).

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        Comment by Codgitator (Cadgertator) | May 27, 2014

  13. The catechism of St. Pius X makes it very clear:

    13 Q. Which are the noblest of God’s creatures?
    A. The noblest creatures created by God are the Angels.

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    Comment by Paulo | May 25, 2014 | Reply

    • Thank you for this, Paulo. That settles it for me.

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      Comment by Blogmaster | May 25, 2014 | Reply

  14. The Eastern hymn mentioned above is what does it for me. The angels are so clearly superior to us naturally, that it demonstrated how amazing God’s transformative Grace is when a human being fully embraces it. The humble peasant, Mary, is lifted above the awe-inspiring seraphim and cherubim. If we were all automatically higher than them, it would not be much of a hymn.

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    Comment by Cosmos | May 25, 2014 | Reply

  15. As we come near to the feast of the Ascension, I think we can get some insight into this matter: The author of Hebrews (chapter 2) has a meditation on Psalm 8. He says that Jesus was for our sake made a little lower than the angels. Then, he goes on to comment on the verse in Psalm 8 that says, “Thou hast put all things under his feet.” The author of Hebrews (presumably St. Paul) says that we do not at present see all things in subjection to man, but “we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor.” Hebrews repeatedly refers to Jesus’ return to the Father, His exaltation, and His sitting down at the right hand of the Father. (Compare Philippians 2.) A hymn for the Ascension says,

    Thou hast raised our human nature
    On the clouds to God’s right hand;
    There we sit in heavenly places,
    There with Thee in glory stand.
    Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
    Man with God is on the throne.
    Mighty Lord, in Thine ascension
    We by faith behold our own.

    This hymn seems to capture the teaching in Hebrews. The idea seems to be that by creation our nature is lower than that of the angels and that Jesus accepted this state as part of the humbling of the Incarnation. In Jesus’ Ascension, our human nature is exalted *in Christ* (in some mysterious sense that we cannot perfectly understand) to a place of glory and power that is above the angels, at the right hand of God.

    This is a pretty subtle theological issue, and quite frankly it is not clear to me that Pope Francis was making the slightest effort to deal with the subtleties thereof.

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    Comment by Lydia | May 25, 2014 | Reply

  16. Just taking Pope’s words at literal face value: I cannot find any passage in the Psalms at all, stating that the angels are beneath man. In the quoted ps. 8 line, the word translated as ‘a god’ is the hebrew word ‘elohim’ which means one of the (angelic) heavenly powers, so the Hebrews paraphrase is entirely appropriate. In both OT and NT, angels warn, inform, guard and minister to men at God’s bidding, but that does not make them inferior to Man. I think the Holy Father may simply have misremembered that line in Ps. 8. (To confuse ‘less than’ with ‘more than’ is a typical parapraxis or freudian slip of the memory.)
    This is no time to start hubristically pulling rank on the heavenly powers, or encouraging conceit among the faithful.
    :-)

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    Comment by mancunius | May 27, 2014 | Reply

  17. Sorry, typo – I meant of course to write ”Just taking *the* Pope’s words…”

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    Comment by mancunius | May 27, 2014 | Reply

  18. There is no doubt whatsoever that man in his nature as originally created, he was naturally lower than the angels. The rational animal nature of man is lower than the spiritual non-animal nature of angels.

    In the state of original justice (as Adam and Eve were created) they were raised up supernaturally to union with God by grace, and in that state they might have been lower, equal, or higher in dignity than various of the angels. But this comparative is in measure of the order of grace, which God gives to rational creatures one by one not based on their nature but based on His good will alone. Thus within the order of grace, according to glory and merit, Adam might have been lower than some angels and higher than others. There is no definite basis in Scripture (that I know of) for even suggesting that God raised Adam above all the angels in that state of original justice.

    Of course with sin Adam and Eve, and all men before being raised up again by grace, were lower than all the good angels both in order of nature and of grace.

    With the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, God repairs our damaged inherent natural dignity (in those who receive grace), and thus in some respects we are restored to the original dignity of rational animals – lower than the angels. In addition, grace once again raises us up higher (in the order of grace) than the level of our own natural dignity, and in this state some of us may be higher than angels and lower than others. The natural order of natures (with respect to dignity, merit, and honor) is not maintained by the supernatural order of grace, since God can make Himself come more abundantly and perfectly to one rational creature than another without any cause found in their natures but only in His will. Thus there is no reason to even suspect that in the order of grace all men are below or all above the angels.

    Since each angel is its own species whole and entire (spiritual creatures have no principle of individuation by which they can be distinct individuals of the same species), it was apparently METAPHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that God should be joined to an angelic nature of the same species as any other angel. That is to say, had God joined an angelic nature, he would NECESSARILY be so joined to a species distinct from every other angelic species. Therefore, he would not SHARE their nature, but only their genus.

    Since, apparently (according to many saints) the first and final cause of the created order was that God should become one with the created order by sharing its nature, it was necessary then that God do so in the nature of an embodied rational being, i.e. man. But this is precisely because of man’s being more limited than angels: to be rational animal is to have a principle of individuation for each member of the species, which is more limited and farther from Godliness than the angelic nature.

    Thus, when Christ became man, he raised the dignity of man’s nature “in general” only by a similitude, not in concrete fact: each man is not actually greater than the angels because Christ is man, but rather each man who is conformed to Christ is likened to a form which, through the dignity of the hypostatic union, is greater than the angels. This is the accidental or extrinsic dignity of being “close to” greatness, not of having greatness oneself. We are likened to greatness (in our human nature) because of our (human) likeness to Christ, but we are actually great in merit and spiritual dignity according to grace not nature, and we do not universally have such greatness merely by being human, we only have grace one by one insofar as each one person receives grace and adheres to God, and this is not universal at all. That is, our (universally valid) human likeness to Christ is that OF human nature, which is NOT that in virtue of which dignity greater than the angels rests, it is only those of us who become saints whose likeness to Christ in the supernatural order even can be greater than that of angels, and in this order the greater dignity is not universally found in men because it is not granted according to nature.

    Christ is of course the Judge of judges. Since Christ is human, man will judge the angels. In addition, as mentioned about the order of grace, God gives missions and offices in the supernatural order wherever He will, and he may give to some men an office of judgement over some angels, but this does not imply that anything universal about all man in comparison to all angels with respect to the order of grace and its merits and dignity.

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    Comment by Tony | May 30, 2014 | Reply

    • What Tony said. (With commenters like Tony it’s a crying shame more people don’t read this blog!)

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      Comment by Blogmaster | May 30, 2014 | Reply

  19. I always feel that way about Tony. I mean, at W4.

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    Comment by Lydia | June 2, 2014 | Reply

  20. Reblogged this on New Sherwood.

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    Comment by Blogmaster | November 15, 2015 | Reply

  21. This is an interesting verse. The Hebrew says “wat’chas’rehu me’at me’Elohim” – “you have made him lessened a little from Elohim.” Elohim seems sometimes to refer to God, sometimes to the celestial court of angels. “me’at” (“a bit”) in Hebrew can mean “a little” (quantity, degree), or “a little while” (time, obviously). It would not surprise me if some novel text favoured by Bergoglio translates it as “less than a god for a while.” But, for what it’s worth, the Italian version of the Liturgia Delle Ore has: “l’hai fatto poco meno degli angeli,” (“You have made him a bit less than the angels”).

    The Church’s Tradition has regarded the Septuagint as an inspired translation (the New Testament always quotes it, Symeon’s involvement in translating the passage from Isaiah, it’s substantial confirmation by the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.), though St. Jerome’s Vulgate made reference to ancient Hebrew manuscripts. Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate render Elohim as “angels.” As to the “a bit,” the Septuagint chose “brachys,” which usually means “a little while,” and can mean “a little” (in terms of degree or quantity). The Vulgate chooses “paulo minus,” which definitely means “less (in stature) by a small degree.” Thus, the Vulgate gives us “a bit inferior to the angels,” and the Septuagint gives us “less than the angels briefly.”

    As to the Tradition, which is very handy for the way it teaches us the Faith in spite of any wrangling over the possible implications of this or that term of this or that verse in Scripture, the Church has long taught that man is deified and raised to a supernatural order higher than the angels by union with Christ, Who is God. Thus the blessed Virgin is queen of angels and more hounourable than Seraphim and more glorious than Cherubim, the faithful will judge angels, the faithful (and especially the celibates) are seen as replacing the ranks of fallen angels, etc. But while we struggle with our sins in this flesh, it would be best not to set ourselves up in hubris against the blessed spirits who surpass us in power, purity and fidelity.

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    Comment by CuiPertinebit | November 30, 2015 | Reply

  22. the Church has long taught that man is deified and raised to a supernatural order higher than the angels by union with Christ, Who is God.

    CuiPertinebit, could you cite the Traditional sources that make this case? That would be wonderful.

    What do you understand as the sense of “union with Christ” making us higher than angels? In what does this union consist, and how “higher”?

    From what little I know, the “supernatural order” is that caused by God’s supernatural grace. Now, this supernatural grace consists essentially in this: that God himself comes and unites himself to the soul, making his abode directly within the soul of the one who receives this grace. This supernatural grace is of a different order than the grace by which, e.g. God performs a miracle in the temporal order, say making the Red Sea part, for the latter grace is of a created order, whereas supernatural grace is God himself – the uncreated – immediately present to you.

    What gets me, though, is that both men and angels receive this supernatural grace. So, union with God by supernatural grace does not distinguish them. And, while God bestows this grace in different degrees, perhaps according to different intensity of union with Him, and meriting differing degrees of glory in heaven, the distinguishing character precedent to the different degrees of grace is NEVER due primarily to the recipient, but to God’s good pleasure, for no rational creature can possibly (of himself) more merit such grace: merit FOLLOWS God’s favor, it does not cause God’s favor. Still less is the distinction in favor due to the nature (human or angelic) of the recipient.

    I don’t know whether angels are considered part of the Church, there seems to be many opinions about that. But they are certainly part of the Community of the Blessed, which consists of all those united in the Beatific Vision in one fellowship. Is the union of all together in heaven with the Beatific Vision of a lesser order than the union of the saved as members of Christ’s body, the Church? It’s hard to see how that would be – especially because Christ founded the Church specifically as the instrument and vehicle of our salvation. If they are of the same order, then union with Christ wouldn’t make us higher, would it?

    The “deification” that we undergo as recipients of salvation is not a distinguishing mark for us as compared to the angels, either. In both they and we, deification consists in the conformation of spirits to godliness, and in both cases is accomplished directly by reason of the supernatural grace that is God’s indwelling presence.

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    Comment by Tony | December 1, 2015 | Reply

    • Tony,
      I cannot come close to matching your theological knowledge or that of Church history. I think the teaching that he is referring to is simply a teaching of the New Testament. However, I can’t find the verse right now.

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      Comment by Bruce | December 2, 2015 | Reply


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